Monday, December 30, 2013

In the (new)Studio: New Work

I realize its been a long time since I put up some new work here.  It had a bit to do with moving studios back in October, that took me some time to get comfortable.  The first month's work was just scary bad.  But also, its that I've been feeling a little guarded.  Its funny because I think I have gotten really good (or at least a lot better) at hearing criticism and working in front of others, like in this shared space, two things that I was really bad about four or so years ago.  

But right now I'm in the mood to just make things and not know anyone's opinion so as not to subconsciously get involved in the making.  So why put them on your public blog you ask?  I don't know.   I think the urge comes from the fact that it is public so I have to really reflect and try to make some good observations which I may not force myself to do otherwise.  And isn't it like mandatory or something to reflect around December 30th?  
Night Fridge(Leftovers), 2013,  Oil on Panel, 10 x 10

Driving Rain, 2013, Oil on Panel, 24 x 30 

Stars in his Eyes, 2013, Oil on Panel, 12 x 12

Night Whites, 2013, Oil on Panel, 12 x 12

Violets in November, 2013, Oil on Panel, 24 x 24

Not yet titled/finished, 2013, Oil on Panel, 48 x 48

 So these are all since moving into my new studio, really just the last two months.  Because I have so little of my personal stuff acquired I have been pushed to work completely from memory (except for the violets one).  So a new process has come about where I am just putting paint down and make about five different paintings until it starts to resemble something and then I carry it in that direction or push through until something else comes up.  

Turns out a lot of what I have been looking at is occurring in the dark.  This time of year in Philadelphia, half of life seems spent in the dark and in addition I have been up a lot at night, whether driving to work before the sun is up or stewing in the middle of the night.  The way the dark envelopes everything but the brightest lights has been something I keep noticing, and I guess its coming out in my paintings.

I also notice I am still hung up on and pushing forms becoming each other and positive to negative and back again.  In the first picture, the can comes into existence simply because of what is around it, in the third his face goes from solid to sky, in the fourth the box becomes the white atmosphere and then pops back into the foreground, and in the last, my dad's figure on the right is married to the edge of the cabinet, simultaneously placing him inside and outside.  Something about these moments just drives me crazy, I love the way it feels to paint them and to look at them.  

And finally, I seem to be going back to an earlier way of composing my pictures.  Things look like film stills, many arms and parts of a scene.  I think when I work from memory this happens more. I want to see if I can work from life and have a consciousness for composing in this way and see what happens.  But first, I have to accumulate those things in this space, so I'll continue on with these ideas and see what comes up next.

Here's to exploring in 2014.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Pick: Anna Topuriya

7.5 x 7.5 / paint on paper / 2011

I'm on semi-vacation (yay, hooray) and this is a semi-post...I am just finding it hard to do anything but eat cookies and drink wine by 4pm each day.  But also, I think this painting deserves to stand alone.  I think it is fantastic.  And I think a lot of Anna Topuriya's other paintings are quite stand alone too.  Check out more here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Pick: Sasha Pichushkin

Untitled, Oil on Canvas, 2012

Untitled, Gouache on Paper, 2013

Untitled, Gouache on Paper, 2013

Untitled, Color marker pen on paper, 2013

Untitled, Color marker pen on paper, 2013

I have been enjoying the drawings and paintings of Sasha Pichushkin.  I urge you to visit his tumblr site here, it is excellent.  A bunch of his work intermingled with little questions from people like, "Are you Russian?" when the only information he gives about himself is directly above that, saying "Abstract Painter, 26, Russian."  There is a sense of humor and playfulness to the whole page grounded in good drawing and painting that keeps bringing me back.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Semester of Student Work

This semester I adjuncted at two local colleges.  I taught representational drawing (drawing I) at one and figure drawing at the other.  I was impressed with the students overall, particularly their good attitudes and progress made over just 15 weeks.  

Below are examples, I tried to take one from nearly each student.

We started out looking at a single object and observing the texture, attempting to make marks in relation to that:

In figure drawing we started out with the skeleton, casts and line drawing:

(after drawing the skeleton several times, I had the model take the same stance and have them flesh in the body over top)

(this is a cast drawing, I took students on a field trip to PAFA for an afternoon for a change of scenery)

Next, we talked about value, finding lights and darks, in both classes.

(tried some subtractive drawings too which really helped some students)

Then we attempted combining line and value while beginning to discuss space and composition more fully: 

(I love this drawing by a student who had never drawn from life or with charcoal before)

We did a lot of charcoal work but spent a few weeks with ink for a little break:

(A student made this while really frustrated with ink, its a fist smashing a wall of glass he said, I love it)

To introduce the portrait which so many of them felt so hesitant about, we made different ink toned paper and did self-portrait collages:

Then moved to pencil:

and charcoal:

Towards the end, I began stressing how light can play into a drawing, particularly in terms of mood, and we did some with dramatic lighting and back lighting:

There were a lot of other really nice drawings.  A big challenge for me was getting them to see outside of subject matter and pure realism.  Many at first placed value on drawings that were the most 'photographic'.  I didn't allow them to work from photo at all and I think by the end they started to see strengths in the different styles and drawings made in class.  

Its hard to teach students to see without showing my own personal preferences, but I made a really concerted effort on this.  I showed a lot of different types of drawings at the beginning of classes, purposely finding artists whose work related to each of the students.  During final crit one student even said, "I want it to function as a drawing not just an image." Which is something I had never said.  I pretty much wanted to fall off my chair(which someone actually did at another point in the crit) and end it right there and then because it doesn't get better than that.  For all the outlandish, cringeworthy comments I heard...that made up for it.  It took me years to think like that.  I was lucky in the students I had my first semester and I am so thankful for that.  I am also thankful for the three week break off that colleges have between semesters.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Pick: Amy Sillman @ ICA Boston

This weekend I went with two good friends up to Boston.  We really wanted to see the Amy Sillman show One Lump or Two at ICA Boston and decided to make a weekend of it.

We had such a great experience.  We got to the ICA which is on the waterfront just as it started snowing, the crisp blue of the water against the grey sky and reflective building set the scene.  But the work in the show was what held us.  It was fantastic.  Going from the early '90s through today, you could see a progression of forms and thoughts in different mediums.  Drawings, paintings on paper and large paintings were all on display.  This variety really helped understand her process.  The small drawings are incredibly personal, drawings from life of friends or sketchbook notes on the attendants at a dinner party.  From them you can see how she builds the forms in her larger works.  

There was a sensibility for honesty that was really captivating for me.  By that I mean all of the work seemed made from a physical place.  You can feel art history in the paintings but not that these are a response to it.  They are not cerebral but from her hand.  By making work in response to her own experience of the world or making work from that work, there is a personal honesty embedded in the shapes and lines and content.  They function as great formal painting much as someone like de Kooning who is commonly mentioned alongside her work but also as her own private lexicon as a woman walking through the world in 2013.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Pick: Snow Painters

Mamma Andersson

Eilif Amundsen

Alex Katz

Today's Sunday Pick has to be about snow.  Usually the weather channel totally overplays the fact that snow is coming to our area so badly that everyone is dug-in, decked-out in snow pants and boots, 10 gallons of hot chocolate stashed away, 4 flashlights and a couple of rolls of tape (why do they always recommend this as a necessary supply?) as about 3 flakes fall and wither on the sidewalk.  

Today was the opposite.  No one was talking about a storm coming and we got about 6+ inches.  Snow was suddenly on everyone's minds, a kind of welcoming of the season that was marked simultaneously with giddy delight and anxiety, depending on your personality.  For Nugget, it was the latter.  I spent about an hour in the car with her nervous cries as she looked out the window, so I was with her, until we got off the road and out of the car and looked around at the beauty that snow brings as it covers the normal eyesores with its white, puffy purity.

I have always, always loved paintings of snow and above are three of my favorite artists' interpretations.  I have also been working through a mess of a painting in my studio of a snow day that is about 50 x 50 inches, so it has been on my brain.  Happiest of snow days to you.  Enjoy it before its beauty quickly turns to the ugliest of things; gray slush hitting you in the face as the bus drives by at 900 miles an hour (more commonly known as: Monday morning, waaa waaaah).

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Drawings from Teaching

This semester I taught two college courses in beginning drawing, involving the figure as subject some of the time.  In a couple of the classes I drew alongside students because many times it is easier to show things than explain them verbally.  I felt a little weird about it, first because students seem to expect the world of their instructor (gulp) and also because I definitely do not want to be the type that pushes students to make work in the same way as they do.  But,,, I do remember vividly loving when my professors would draw in class and I could see drawings in their various states of finish, so I bit the bullet.

I'm not really sure whether these ended up being beneficial to students at all.  But they were beneficial to me, which I didn't anticipate.  The way I feel about making quick, small paintings from life, the release and risk it allows for is what I found in doing these drawings.  I had the simple pleasure of putting charcoal to paper, one corner to the other.  These are some of the drawings going from about 5 minute drawings at the top to 10 seconds by the end.  I think they will be helpful in the studio too, when making paintings of figures without reference.